Tariq and Akshitha emerge champs

THE All India Tennis Association's new concept for under-14 and under-18 players with events like Talent Series, Championship Series and Super Series is surely catching up and the turn-out is encouraging. But one sore point that has remained is lack of sponsors for such events. The Super Series championship for under-14 players held recently in Bangalore was another example of apathy. The tournament was originally slated to be held in Mysore, but with the organisers backing out at the last moment, the KSLTA was forced to conduct the event in Bangalore, lack of sponsors notwithstanding.

Akshitha B. Raj and Tariq Jacob, who won the AITA Super Series under-14 singles titles . — Pic. V. SREENIVASA MURTHY-

Two promising youngsters, Tamil Nadu's Tariq Jacob and Akshitha B. Raj of Karnataka claimed the boys' and girls' singles titles respectively. Tariq also completed a well deserved double, as he took the doubles crown partnering Sujith Sachidanand of Karnataka.

The second seeded Tariq beat a temperamental top seed, Mesheer Vaswani 6-3, 6-4 in the boys singles final while the top seed, Akshitha B. Raj stopped Sushrutha Reddy of Andhra Pradesh 6-3, 7-6 (7-5) in the girls singles final.

This is Tariq's last year in the under-14 ranks and he had a pretty good run this season, with wins at Nutrine and Nike events and the youngster, with good strokes and strong first serve, has the potential to make it big.

In the 90-minute summit, Tariq ran into problems with his serve, but he compensated for that, with his hard hit returns. He came up with good placements and played at a steady pace to unsettle Mesheer Vaswani. The Bangalore youngster did carry a big forehand, but he was very predictable and seemed to play without a proper game plan. Tariq quickly figured him out and gained the upperhand in the first set, with break in the first game of the match, he wrapped it up at 6-3.

Mesheer came back firing in the second set and both the players traded breaks all the way till 4 all. But Tariq finally gained a decisive break in the ninth. He whipped a down the line return to grab the break point and Mesheer later obliged him, swiping a forehand return out. Tariq up 5-4, served out the match.

The girls' final was a long baseline battle, though Akshitha did well to take the first set at 6-3 with a quick break, she faced some fierce resistance from Sushrutha in the second set. The AP girl, trailing 2-5, did well to level at five all and then pushed the set to tie-breaker, which again proved to be a close contest till five all, Akshitha, however, finally closed at 7-5 to take the set and title.

In the boys doubles final, Tariq and Sujith Sachidanand beat the Maharashtra duo, Jairaj Desai and Debendra Das 7-6 (7-5), 6-4 while in an all Andhra girls doubles final, Sushrutha Reddy and Niroshita beat Unnati Purushotham and Janaki S. Rao 6-2, 6-3.

Earlier in the semi-finals, Mesheer Vaswani overcame a stiff challenge from the fifth seed, Sujith Sachidanand at 4-6, 6-2, 6-3. The clash between the two talented Bangaloreans, was engrossing and at times stormy, before Mesheer held his nerve and came up with consistent returns to stop his rival. Mesheer was impeccable with his big forehand and as the tie progressed, he simply got better and better with it.

Sujith's strength was his grit and never-say-die spirit and the diminutive youngster chased every ball and made some neat returns, but he lacked the consistency in crunch situation and ran into problems with his first serve and double faulted too often, which made his task of stretching his lead in the tie to winning proportion.

Tariq Jacob rallied to beat the fourth seed Jairaj Desai of Maharashtra 6-7, (2-7), 6-2, 6-1 in the other semi-final. After he began on a tentative note and lost the first set on tie-break, Tariq played solidly from the baseline to dismantle his rival's challenge in the next two sets.

The girls singles semi-finals were lopsided and the third seed Sushrutha Reddy stopped the winning spree of her team-mate, Janani Suresh 6-2, 6-3 while the second seed, Akshita B. Raj made short work of Janaki S. Rao 6-3, 6-1. Janani Suresh, earlier accounted for a lacklustre top seed, Amrita Seth of Delhi at 6-2, 6-2.

The results:

Boys: Singles: Final: Tariq Jacob (TN) bt Mesheer Vaswani (Kar) 6-4, 6-4. Semi-finals: Tariq Jacob bt Jairaj Desai (Mah) 6-7, (2-7), 6-2, 6-1; Mesheer Vaswani bt Sujith Sachidanand (Kar) 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.

Doubles Final: Tariq Jacob and Sujith Sachidanand bt Jairaj Desai and Debendra Das (Mah) 7-6, (7-5), 6-4.

Girls: Singles: Final: Akshitha B. Raj (Kar) bt Sushrutha Reddy (AP) 6-2, 7-6, (7-5). Semi-finals: Sushrutha Reddy bt Janani Suresh (AP) 6-2, 6-3; Akshita B. Raj bt Janaki Rao (AP) 6-3, 6-1.

Doubles Final: Sushrutha Reddy and Niroshita (AP) bt Unnati Purushotham and Janaki S. Rao (AP) 6-2, 6-3.

Khalyan N. Ashok